The Importance of Primary Care Physicians Recognizing Senior Substance Abuse Problems - image

The Importance of Primary Care Physicians Recognizing Senior Substance Abuse Problems

Substance abuse problems are an epidemic in America. A common assumption is that younger and middle-aged people are the typical demographic for substance abuse. However, a growing number of seniors are getting admitted to rehabilitation facilities because of addiction problems. One earlier health study even suggested that roughly 5.7 million seniors would have some sort of substance abuse disorder by the year 2021.

Primary Medical Care Center has treated our fair share of seniors with substance abuse problems. Since many older Americans depend on drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications for pain relief, it is understandable why they would start to abuse them. The opioid crisis in America is a perfect example.

Don’t forget that prescription medications can be abused too. All a senior has to do is take a higher dose than what they’re supposed to take. And when they run out of medication, they may turn to illegal means to get the drug if their doctor won’t prescribe them anymore. Not only does that create more substance abuse issues, but it also creates legal issues as well.

At least younger people have more of an advantage because they are likely to have family members and friends nearby for support. On the other hand, seniors tend to live alone without any family support close to them. Combining drugs and alcohol with loneliness and isolation creates the perfect formula for substance abuse. Unfortunately, so many seniors fall into this trap, and it causes them grave misfortune and stress at the most vulnerable point in their lives.

How to Help Seniors Overcome Substance Abuse 

Seniors are more skeptical and hesitant to receive help compared to younger people. It takes a lot of work to convince a senior to trust anyone, especially someone who advises them about their health.

A primary care physician may earn a senior patient’s trust if they have been their doctor for a long time. Otherwise, the senior won’t be straightforward about their substance abuse unless the doctor figures it out for themselves. The doctor should ask questions to look for signs of substance abuse.

For instance, do you feel unhappy or depressed? Have you lost interest in things you once loved? Do you socialize with friends? Do you consume drugs or alcohol? The answers to these four questions can tell a doctor all they need to know about whether a patient suffers from substance abuse. After all, most people with substance abuse problems feel depressed and isolate themselves from the world.

Many seniors won’t admit they have a substance abuse problem because they are either in denial or don’t recognize it. Because of this, primary care physicians must recognize the problem and present the evidence to their patients. The senior patients may finally admit to their substance abuse problem after their doctor explains the symptoms.

Once the primary care physician has confirmed the substance abuse problem with their senior patient, the next step is to offer behavioral health services and support. Fortunately, Primary Medical Care Center provides behavioral health services in addition to our general health services. This means senior patients can receive all their general and specialized treatments at the same facility.

Why Primary Care Physicians Have to Step Up

Who else do seniors have in their lives? If they don’t live near family or close friends, no one is around to help them overcome their substance abuse. The only person in the senior’s life who cares for their health is their primary care physician. That is why primary care physicians must step up and learn to recognize the signs of substance abuse.

Seniors like to hide their substance abuse problems out of shame or embarrassment. In fact, they might not even answer their doctor’s questions honestly, especially questions about whether they consume drugs and alcohol. However, a doctor can still recognize a patient’s substance abuse problem during physical examinations. In addition, blood and urine tests can tell a lot about their regular consumption habits.

When a patient is under a particular treatment plan, their doctor will recognize if something is not going right. In response, the doctor should consider substance abuse as a possible reason why the treatment plan is failing. Sometimes the patient will admit to the substance abuse if they are desperate to treat another health problem. And since they don’t want the substance abuse to interfere with the treatment, they will come clean about their situation.

Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous are two great suggestions to give to patients suspected of suffering from substance abuse. History has shown that patients are more willing to try these treatment problems out because they can remain anonymous and socialize with other people in similar situations.

Contact Us

Are you a senior with a substance abuse problem? Do you have a loved one who falls into this category? In either case, you should contact Primary Medical Care Center to seek advice and treatment for this problem. Our team of primary care physicians and behavioral health specialists can help you overcome this problem and get your life back on track.

Please contact us at (305) 751-1500 for assistance.